The Demand for Integrity in Public Life

by Dr. Lawrence A. Joseph

In an effort to eradicate corruption completely amongst persons involved in public life, two important pieces of legislation were passed in Grenada in 2007. These are the Prevention of Corruption Act and the Integrity in Public Life Act which two Acts operate in sync. These laws were passed in keeping with government’s obligations under the Inter-American Convention Against Corruption. This is a Convention to which Grenada is a party being a member of the Organization of American States (OAS). Further, it seems that in modern times, before transacting business with nation states, most international financial institutions insist on those states having adequate measures in place to prevent corruption in public life.

The main purpose of the Prevention of Corruption Act is to outline the offences which may be committed by public officers and to establish the related penalties. The objective is to dissuade public officers from becoming engaged in corruption. The main purpose of the Integrity in Public Life Act is to establish an Integrity Commission in order to ensure that integrity is continuously maintained in public life by demanding that persons in public life declare their assets, liabilities, income and interest in relation to property and conducting relevant investigations where necessary. Before taking up office in the Commission, every member must make and subscribe to the prescribed oath of office and oath of secrecy before the Governor-General. The Act also outlines a Code of Conduct which spells out what constitutes conflict of interest, how persons should react to improper offers and other general principles.

Both the Prevention of Corruption Act and the Integrity in Public Life Act may be said to define persons in public life as those who are either appointed by the Public Service Commission or a person who is a member of a public body established by Government and which provides a public function. Members of the Integrity Commission, parliamentarians, permanent secretaries, police officers, the Director of Public Prosecutions, magistrates, among others, are considered to be persons in public life.

Section 28 of the Integrity in Public Life Act spells out that persons in public life have an obligation to furnish specific declarations to the Integrity Commission within a specific time frame. Any person who does not heed this obligation may be taken to Court and may end up paying a fine of sixty thousand dollars or being sent to prison for a term of two years. The members of the Commission and the Director of Public Prosecutions are obligated to file their declarations with the Governor-General.

The declarations must give all the information required in accordance with Form 2 of the Third Schedule of the Act. All assets, liabilities and income held by the declarant, his or her spouse and children must be declared. Moreover, the Commission retains the right to make further inquires into those declarations, and if necessary, request the Director of Public Prosecutions to intervene. For example, if the assets of a person in public life at the end of a certain period amount to $5M, but at the end of another twelve month period the assets amount to $20M then further investigations may be conducted by the Commission in order to ascertain how $15M could have been obtained in such a short period.

The offences which the Prevention of Corruption Act outlines include soliciting or accepting any gratification, without lawful authority from any person, for doing, abstaining from doing, disclosing confidential information and delaying or expediting any activity either by himself or herself or through another person. Any person who influences a public officer to commit the above offences would also be guilty of an offence. The penalty for these offences may be a fine of fifty thousand dollars or a term of three years imprisonment. A person who is convicted of bribing a parliamentarian and the parliamentarian who is involved may be liable to a fine of one Hundred Thousand Dollars and to imprisonment for up to five years.

Up to the time of writing the Integrity Commission has not been able to function to full capacity. The relevant members of the Commission have been appointed, and they, together with staff have been undergoing training in London, Singapore, Canada and locally with the assistance of the Commonwealth Secretariat. They have conducted public education concerning the functions of the Commission with trade union members and senior public officers. However, at the moment it seems that the Commission is awaiting the Appropriation Act to be enacted following the Budget debate in Parliament. After its financial allocation is made to it then the Commission would be able to function at full capacity. In the meantime, all persons in public life must be prepared to declare their assets, liabilities and incomes within a few months or face the penalties.

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